Johnny Guther’s parents gave him an incredible gift by gently encouraging him to journal, as we’ve talked about. His battle with a brain tumor would have been incredibly scary and overwhelming, but in those pages, he had a place to work out his thinking, to articulate his fears, and also just to entertain himself in those long days at the hospital.
But the journal served another purpose. As his father writes in Death Be Not Proud, Johnny’s parents came to understand that he “was using the diary…as an indirect way of conveying messages to us. He was inviting us to read it and so find out what he was thinking that he didn’t wish to talk about.”
Kids struggle to communicate. Of course they do. They’re small. They’re scared. They don’t have the words. They don’t have the life experience to even know where to start when it comes to expressing themselves. So they find other ways to speak to us. As we’ve said, the primary way that kids communicate is through behavior. They are constantly leaving us clues, hinting with what they do and what they don’t say, trying to speak to us, trying to get us to understand things, even if they don’t quite realize it. Even their silence can speak volumes.
We have to be listening always. We have to be open not just to the obvious channels but the back channels too. We have to be willing to accept go-betweens and untraditional avenues, we have to read between the lines, we have to take whatever we can get, whatever they’re able to give.
They need us to hear them and we have to hear it…before it’s too late.